The sport that enjoys huge popular appeal is baseball, unsurprising given that more than a hundred Dominican peloteros are presently lighting up the Big Leagues in the USA. After that comes basketball, volleyball, athletics, and only then football. "Although that's the reality," says Guzmán, "in Venezuela, another country with a huge baseball culture, football has made inroads. I believe it will happen here too."
Support and encouraging signs
Local officials, working tirelessly to accelerate the growth of football in the Dominican Republic, have found an ally and helping hand in FIFA. In 2005, under the auspices of FIFA's Com-Unity Programme, delegates agreed on the need for better marketing and communication initiatives to develop the sport. Speaking at the time, Guzmán said: "This (programme) will mark a watershed in the history of our football."
Early signs of progress can be seen in the development of the national U-20 side, who have just qualified for the second phase of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the FIFA U-20 World Cup to be held in Canada next year. Particularly impressive have been Kerbi Rodríguez and Jonathan Fana, two talented youngsters with bright futures. Unfortunately, the team's success has generated little interest in the local media.
Current national team coach Ljubomir Crnokrak is also aware of what the sport is up against. "It's clear that we lack financial resources, but these youngsters have real quality. The potential for Dominican football is enormous. Yet for all of that, the papers give us no coverage. Even one or two lines a week would be an additional motivation for the players," said the Croat.
Despite a lack of friendlies, the Quisqueyanos are confidently looking ahead to the Copa Caribe Digicel 2007, which serves as the qualifying tournament for the CONCACAF Gold Cup USA 2007. In their first-round Group C games, scheduled for 26-30 September, the team will take on Bermuda (http://25worldcountry.blogspot.com/
), the British Virgin Islands (167th) and the US Virgin Islands (193rd). To keep their qualifying dreams alive, they must finish among the top two. Long term, though, their goal remains a historic first appearance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
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